Liverpool hospital to close maternity, pediatrics wards

EAST LIVERPOOL Employees at East Liverpool City Hospital received word Tuesday that inability to complete a merger with Humility of Mary Health Partners will result in the permanent closing of the hospital’s obstetric and pediatric wards by the end of August.

In an email to employees, Ken Cochran, hospital president and CEO, announced these and other drastic steps needed to cut expenses by $6 million and to ensure the facility’s continued operation.

Cochran justified closure of the pediatrics unit by citing lack of use over the past two years, also saying that “reimbursement for obstetrics is just too low for the number of deliveries we do,” noting financial losses in obstetrics far exceed $1 million annually.

Also announced is consolidation of all medical-surgical patients to the fourth floor to “maximize efficiencies,” making a total of 57 beds. With an average daily census of 37, Cochran wrote in the email that this would leave 20 extra beds for busier census times.

The changes will mean a 10 percent elimination of employees, which means 47 people, 21 percent of whom will be management personnel, according to the email.

Mary Kay Hoppel, president of the hospital nurses’ union, estimated this could mean the elimination of as many as 30 nursing positions and said it is possible LPNs and other union positions could be affected by the changes as time goes on.

She said that, while some of the nurses in the OB and pediatrics units will be able to retire or accept layoffs, some will “bump” into other positions, but this will mean nurses with less seniority will then lose their jobs, saying that jobs will definitely be lost.

Other changes noted in the email included a 20 percent benefit change for all employees, noting, “We will be making changes to non-union employees Jan. 1, but hoping to get support from the unions in order to reach targets.”

Also announced were a 20 percent reduction in professional fees and physician payments and a 50 percent reduction in consulting fees.

Cochran did not return a message left on his cell phone for comment about the proposed changes.

Previously, he had said the merger with HMHP hinged on successful negotiations with the nurses’ union, but no contract has yet been reached, with the last proposal overwhelmingly denied by the union.

Hoppel said Tuesday night new talks are scheduled for Aug. 12 and 13.